The Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS) will fortify and advance its environmental sustainability initiatives with new support from the Gendler Grapevine Project, an initiative created to celebrate the ideals of Rabbi Everett Gendler, who was ordained at JTS in 1957. One of five seminaries to receive such a grant in 2014, JTS will build on efforts by its administration to advance sustainable operations and environmental education and awareness. The grant of $9,800 will be used to revitalize the campus's terrace garden for active use as an eco-sanctuary and resource for teaching and learning about Jewish environmental values.
"Spiritual ecology is central to our faith and tradition," says Aliyah Vinikoor, assistant dean of JTS's Albert A. List College of Jewish Studies and JTS Greening Fellow. "Tending to a garden, harvesting its bounty, and donating its extra fruits to the Morningside Heights community will allow JTS to put our Jewish environmental values into practice. Our campus community is committed to improving its environmental impact and contributing to building a sustainable future."
Beginning this summer, JTS will build permanent raised garden beds with benches and plaques that affirm Jewish principles related to environmental stewardship. Students will be involved in establishing the renovated garden and related programming, supported by internships provided by the Gendler Grapevine Project grant. In addition to being an attractive, visitor-friendly space, the garden will serve as a hands-on tool for learning about halakhah (Jewish law) related to the use of the earth in Jewish agricultural practices and in connection with Jewish holidays. The faculty will also use the garden to engage students in meaningful discussion about ecological awareness in Judaism. In addition, JTS's residence hall composting program will be expanded.
The new infrastructure will provide a dynamic outlet for ongoing environmental education programming, including Jewish holiday and Earth Day celebrations to connect Jewish learning with practical knowledge about the environment, food ethics, and sustainability.
"The Jewish Theological Seminary has reaffirmed its sustainability goal of becoming a more environmentally conscious institution," JTS Chancellor Arnold M. Eisen says. "With our daily and consistent efforts, we can make it possible for our families and all future generations to thrive and prosper."
JTS's renewed commitment to environmental sustainability was initiated by grants totaling $27,000 from the Jewish Greening Fellowship, a joint partnership between UJA-Federation of New York and Hazon. Those funds enabled JTS to begin a Jewish Environmental Ethics Series, create its Green Team of administrators as well as its student EcoReps, and start the residence hall composting project.
The Gendler Grapevine Project (www.gendlergrapevine.org) is a six-year initiative that promotes activities within the Jewish and interfaith communities that honor and support the values maintained by Rabbi Everett Gendler: recognizing and celebrating the deep connections between Jewish tradition, social justice, and the environment by empowering individuals and communities to spiritual and practical application of these values. Through clusters of well-publicized targeted grants administered by a donor-advised fund at the Jewish Communal Fund of New York, the Gendler Grapevine Project offers financial and informational support for innovative, effective, replicable projects at rabbinical schools, summer camps, synagogues, Jewish professional associations, interfaith outreach programs, and the like.